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Posts Tagged ‘equity’

BY LYDIA LEE

FROM THE MAY 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE 

 

As landscape architects push the profession to become more equitable, some landscape architects and planners say it’s time to replace the industry-standard term “master plan.” The term not only has racial overtones, but more significantly signals a top-down approach that is antithetical to the profession today, they say.

In the United States, “master” was the term for slaveholder in the slave codes enacted by states starting in the mid-1600s. Because of its associations with slavery, various professions have been moving away from using “master” in its various forms, and the Black Lives Matter movement has accelerated these initiatives. For example, the tech industry has been trying to eliminate references to “master and slave” software routines, a common parlance for relationships between elements. Last summer, several real estate associations announced they were using “primary bedroom” in lieu of “master bedroom” in listings. As far back as 2014, activists in Philadelphia urged the city to drop the term “master plan” because “master” was an insulting term to the Black community. (more…)

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This spring, ASLA convened women of color leaders in architecture and landscape architecture education to discuss networks of mentorship, camaraderie, and solidarity. “Hear their Voices: Inspiring Stories from Women Leaders in Design Education” was moderated by Samantha Solano, ASLA, an assistant professor of landscape architecture and regional planning at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The lively, candid discussion included the following leaders in design education:

Diane Jones Allen, FASLA, director and professor of landscape architecture, University of Texas at Arlington

Maria Bellalta, ASLA, dean and faculty, School of Landscape Architecture, Boston Architectural College

Hazel R. Edwards, professor and chair, College of Engineering and Architecture, Howard University

Vini Nathan, dean and McWhorter endowed chair, College of Architecture, Design, and Construction, Auburn University

After a round of introductions, Solano directed the conversation with sharp, thoughtful questions. Much of the conversation focused on how women can support themselves and each other, navigating male and white-led organizations. Bellalta urged that women carefully consider options on whether to push ahead or to sit back and listen, weighing strategic, deliberative planning against action when trying to navigate around or through what she called “tall people with big voices.” Jones Allen says that leadership has forced her to overcome the desire to always be liked, a deeply entrenched aspect of gender-specific socialization that is more fraught for Black women. “Sometimes, as the director, or the chair, or the dean, you have to make the decision, and sometimes people aren’t going to like you,” she says.  Nathan, meanwhile, suggests pushing at these boundaries to ensure growth, to “follow a little bit of your fear.”

All of this guidance is a part of the omnipresent but seldom publicly acknowledged “inner work” women are forced to focus on in addition to their institutional responsibilities, Solano says. But the discussion also made it clear that the work of diversifying the ranks of design education and design itself isn’t just for women. Beyond the mental and emotional preparation women undergo to exist and thrive in male-dominated spaces, the panel also concentrated on benefits and working conditions that should be fundamental for everyone, but often affect women first, including more flexible working conditions and stronger partnerships between schools and firms. Nathan says that simply hiring more women is not enough. Organizations need to make sure women are placed in positions that control budgets. “Money is what translates into power,” she says, “and power is what translates into influence and impact.”

The panel webinar was hosted by the ASLA Committee on Education. For more information, please visit ASLA’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Webinars page, which is available on ASLA’s DEI hub.

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As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish.

BY JANE MARGOLIES

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

When the novelist and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, gave away more than $4.1 billion at the end of 2020, she didn’t bestow funds upon Ivy League schools and other elite universities that are often the recipients of large gifts. Instead, Scott, whose fortune comes from shares of Amazon stock she received after her divorce, handed out money to a handful of community colleges, among many other deserving institutions, based on the “vital services” such groups provide, as she wrote in a Medium post.

Community colleges also came up recently in connection with Dr. Jill Biden, the new First Lady, after a Wall Street Journal opinion piece criticized her for using the honorific before her name because she is not a medical doctor. Biden, whose doctoral dissertation was on maximizing student retention in community colleges, has long taught at such colleges and plans to continue to do so now that she and her husband, President Joseph Biden, have moved into the White House.

Community colleges may be making news of late, but these institutions, open to all and costing a fraction of the tuition of four-year colleges, have long played a crucial role. They are the places where many Black, Latinx, low-income, and first-generation students embark on higher education. And they are often stepping-stones for high school graduates who haven’t yet decided what they want to do with their lives. Smaller classes allow students to get individual attention from professors who focus on teaching, not their own research. Community colleges offer two-year associate’s degrees or certificate-based programs, and from there students can transfer to four-year schools to continue their education. Several community colleges have programs in landscape design or related fields, but they are not always perceived as channels into the profession of landscape architecture.

The profession, long dominated by white males from comfortable backgrounds, now seeks to be more inclusive and diverse. Students who come from community colleges to four-year schools can bring fresh perspectives that can broaden and enrich the practice of landscape architecture. Some argue that it is precisely students like these that the profession needs. But how does that transition play out in practice? Let’s look at New Jersey for clues. (more…)

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As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

When Jaz Bonnin, Heidi Brandow, Elsa Hoover, and Zoë Toledo walked through the doors of Harvard University’s Gund Hall, they weren’t aware they were making history. The women arrived at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) with diverse backgrounds and wide-ranging interests, from affordable housing to the spatialization of resource extraction. Still, the women had one thing in common: heritage that stretches back to well before Western contact. Brandow is Diné and Kanaka Maoli (known more commonly as Navajo and Native Hawaiian); Toledo is Diné; Hoover, of mixed Anishinabe and Finnish heritage; and Bonnin, of mixed heritage that includes Yankton Sioux and Blackfoot.

The students’ arrival at the GSD in fall 2019 marked the first time in the school’s nearly 100-year history that four students of Native ancestry have been enrolled at the same time. It’s an illustration of the near-total absence of Indigenous voices within the design and planning professions. For Brandow, a painter who is pursuing a master’s degree in art, design, and the public domain, such experiences are all too common. “As a Native person, being at Harvard, or anything you do, you accept that you’re probably going to be the first, or one of a handful of people,” she says. “You accept that Harvard is 500 years behind on this. But you also recognize that’s an opportunity to get the work done. To create these spaces, to increase visibility, to make this declaration of our presence and the necessity of more recruitment of Indigenous people.” (more…)

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As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

FROM THE AUGUST 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Black people and Black communities bear the outsized impacts of public violence and, now, the deadly coronavirus. Six Black landscape architects and an architect parse the spatial factors that underlie each crisis—often both crises—and the kinds of actions and reforms they hope to see.

With Diane Jones Allen, FASLA; M. Austin Allen III, ASLA; Charles Cross; June Grant; Elizabeth Kennedy, ASLA; Jescelle R. Major, ASLA; and Douglas A. Williams, ASLA.

The idea for the following discussion, which took place the afternoon of June 22, 2020, via videoconference, first arose in late April as it became clear that the pandemic brought on by the novel coronavirus COVID-19 was doing disproportionate damage in Black communities in the United States: three times the number of infections as white people, and nearly twice the likelihood of death. The health crisis and an economic shutdown were quick to layer onto the existing vulnerabilities of Black people in the realms of health care, employment, wealth creation, community investment, mobility, and access to the virus’s nemeses—fresh air, open space, and daylight. Diane Jones Allen, FASLA, and M. Austin Allen III, ASLA, based in New Orleans and Arlington, Texas, invited four other landscape architecture practitioners and one architect to a call to talk about the spatial inequities to which the spread of the virus is plausibly attributable.

As the virus spread in May, there came national and international attention, two months delayed, to the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, 25, by racist vigilantes as he was out for a run in daylight on February 23 just outside Brunswick, Georgia, and the killing of Breonna Taylor, who was 26, in her home early the morning of March 13 by Louisville Metro Police, who were executing a no-knock warrant. Then on May 25, Memorial Day, George Floyd, 46, was murdered in public view by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds in the course of answering a call for an alleged nonviolent offense at a convenience store. As anger gathered and then exploded in street uprisings across the country, the group of designers on these pages had an expanded scope to cover—two plagues, not one, to dissect for causes and complications that bear directly on the callings of landscape architecture, its ideals, and its ill preparedness for such a moment. One plague is novel, and the other is now four centuries with us. (more…)

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BY JARED BREY

Buffalo plans the country’s biggest environmental impact bond to fund green infrastructure.

FROM THE AUGUST 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In 2018, the City of Buffalo, New York, cut the ribbon on Jesse Clipper Square, a small park named for the first Black soldier from Buffalo to die in World War I. The square, originally dedicated in the 1930s, was designed by John Edmonston Brent, one of Buffalo’s first Black architects. Today it sits in the median of William Street, a wide arterial street connecting downtown Buffalo to the neighborhood of Willert Park. As part of a broader greening of William Street, the park was expanded and planted with new trees and a rain garden. According to the Buffalo Sewer Authority, the project helps prevent some 284,000 gallons of water from entering the city’s combined sewer system during typical rain storms.

Green infrastructure projects like the William Street overhaul—small-scale interventions designed to manage stormwater on public streets, parking lots, and rooftops—are the bread and butter of the Buffalo Sewer Authority’s Rain Check program, a $380 million commitment that originated in a 2014 consent agreement between the city and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and improve water quality. Under the terms of its Long Term Control Plan, Buffalo committed to spending $93 million on green infrastructure to manage stormwater on at least 1,315 impervious acres. In the first phase of the plan, Rain Check 1.0, which began in 2015, the sewer authority focused on public projects that could be carried out relatively easily, according to documents. But Rain Check 2.0, announced last spring, is going for tougher targets, mostly on private property.

To help push the project along, Buffalo’s Mayor, Byron Brown, announced in February that the city would issue a $30 million environmental impact bond (EIB) to help fund a grant program that will encourage private landowners to install green infrastructure. Environmental impact bonds are a kind of municipal borrowing that links bond investors’ returns to the performance of the projects funded by the bond. One of the first EIBs in the United States was issued in 2016 by DC Water, Washington, D.C.’s water authority, to help fund green infrastructure related to its own agreement with the EPA (see “The River Beneath the River,” LAM, November 2018). Since then, more cities have begun experimenting with the bonds, including Atlanta, New Orleans, and Baltimore. In many cases, new funds for green infrastructure equates to more work for landscape architects. (more…)

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The latest episode of the Landscape Architecture Podcast from Michael Todoran, ASLA, takes a small step toward addressing what the profession of landscape architecture can do to act as counterweight against the most recent incidents of state-sanctioned violence against black Americans. Todoran’s guest is Kofi Boone, ASLA, a professor of landscape architecture at North Carolina State University, a Landscape Architecture Foundation board member, and a LAM contributor.

In this interview, Boone discusses his writing and lectures on the Black Lives Matter movement’s intersection with African American landscapes, some of which have been resurfacing amid protests over the recent police-involved murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and other black people. In this wide-ranging discussion, Boone and Todoran talk about what tools the profession of landscape architecture has to push back on systems of oppression that are now in full view, and the two pillars landscape architects must now take on: equity and climate change.

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